Why Quants Will Always Have a Rosy Future

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The fact that I picked up this story probably has something to do with the fact I'm in the midst of reading Moneyball, Michael M. Lewis's story of how the Oakland A's used a new approach to statistics to change the way baseball players are evaluated and teams put together. A number of the book's front office players - as opposed to on-field players - gave up lucrative careers in trading and derivatives to bring their mathematical talents to bear in Major League Baseball.

On Wall Street, nowadays, derivatives and the like are still somewhat out-of-fashion - or at least discussed more discreetly in public. That would argue quants aren't worth the money they got paid not all that long ago. But whether in the markets or the corporate world, there's plenty of evidence that people who can read data like others read books still have a bright future.

Writing in the Financial Times, Stefan Stern observes how more companies are seeking ways to take advantage of data from Web site traffic to electrical grid use. Consulting firms like Accenture and technology companies like IBM and SAP are lining up to offer systems able to dig into numbers and offer predictive solutions, often in real time. Stern makes a good case that people who can take "analytics," which he defines as "managing better with the use of data," a few steps further have plenty of room to grow on the job, and will become ever more important to organizations of all kinds. As he concludes:

Not everyone will be fired up by the idea of plunging deep into a world of data. In the 1960s, bright young graduates, like the Dustin Hoffman character in (The Graduate), did not all choose to pursue a career in plastics. But one young chap at General Electric did. Welch, I think his name was. Things seemed to work out pretty well for him.

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